Champions League Group Stage • Liverpool FC-AC Milan Preview: Brilliant Mistake

Before Istanbul and Athens, I knew Liverpool primarily for its history of producing music and musicians that richly influenced modern music since four bad haircuts from Liverpool changed everything in 1960. After 2005, when Milan suffered the excruciating loss to Liverpool on penalties in the Champions League Finals after having been up 3-0 at the half, I wanted nothing to do with anything from Liverpool or its music ever again. However, since the redemption in Athens in 2007 with two goals from my Super Pippo, some of the music has made it back into my playlist. Maldini and others have mentioned that the night in Istanbul is the one match that still keeps them up at night, and I, too sometimes look back on what was so much more painful than a brilliant mistake.

This is where the history and the present merge

Ironically, both teams are now owned by American companies, and the last time Milan faced Liverpool was actually here in California, in the ICC Tournament in 2016. That was a year after Klopp had joined the club, but it was all too easy to take Montella's depleted side 2-0 in that friendly, even if Liverpool were not doing so great themselves at the time. Fast forward two years, and Liverpool were runners up in the Champions League, only to win it the following year, in 2019. They picked up a few other trophies as well, including the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup that year, and then went on to win the Premier League in 2019-20 for the first time in 30 years. 

In contrast, Milan have not even played in the Champions League for seven years, and the last time we won a Champions League trophy was against The Reds. Liverpool also have a squad with total wages of about €162 million last year, whereas Milan's player wages were only €90 million. On paper, the disparity is real. On the pitch, however, it is worth looking a little closer. Liverpool finished third in the Premier League last season, while Milan finished second in Serie A. Milan are currently second on the table with Roma on goal difference, whereas Liverpool and Chelsea are second behind Manchester United in the Premier League, also on goal difference. Liverpool will be a very tough opponent, but anyone who thinks this game is already decided would be making a brilliant mistake.

We saw Salah's pure talent at Roma, and he's only improved since then

Liverpool beat Leeds United 3-0 on Sunday with goals from Mohamed Salah, Fabinho, and Sadio Mané. Leeds played with 10 men from 60 minutes on after a You'll Never Walk Again tackle on the young Harvey Elliott by Pascal Struijk. Elliott's injury was very serious and he will likely be out for about six months. For this match, Klopp lined up Allison; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Elliott, Fabinho, Alcantara; Salah, Diogo Jota, and Mané. He will be missing Elliott and Firmino to injury, with Minamino in doubt due to fitness as well. Liverpool's complete Champions League squad can be found here

Milan's 2-0 victory over Lazio on Sunday was a great confidence boost going into this match. Nerves are likely to be high, as very few players have even played in the Champions League before. Pioli's entire Champions List squad can be found here, but he will be missing Bakayoko and Krunić to injury. Giroud is in doubt after having been COVID-positive and missing about 10 days of training, but he is back training with the squad and could possibly be available Wednesday night. Messias was not called up on Sunday due to fitness, and Plizzari was also out, so both are doubtful to make the trip as well.

"Alisson, my aim is true"

Milan have won their first three matches of the season two years in a row for the first time in their history. They may appear to be the underdogs with a younger, less experienced, and less talented team overall. But they are hungry, and they are united. They are anxious to prove their worth, to restore history and awaken the Champions League DNA in their veins. (Another revenge for 2005 would be nice, too, but let's not get too carried away, we just barely qualified again.)

You know that Maldini and Dida, who played in both Champions League finals against Liverpool and are back at the club again have to be excited at this opportunity, and yet probably very anxious, too. After all, Milan are away to Anfield for the first time ever in a country that allows 100% capacity in their stadiums, COVID-be-damned. Klopp is a coach who has actually won the Champions League and is well-known, whereas Pioli is the quiet leader guiding Milan's ship back onto European course, one which he has personally never navigated as a manager. That course is now set for a return to Europe, beginning on Wednesday. To say that this is just another Group Stage match would be a brilliant mistake.

This post inspired by the music of Elvis Costello's "Brilliant Mistake"

Champions League Group Stage
Liverpool FC vs. AC Milan
Wednesday, September 15 • 21:00 CEST (3pm EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

You can also watch the UEFA Youth League
Liverpool FC U19 vs. AC Milan U19
Wednesday, September 15 • 14:00 CEST (8am EDT)
This match can be streamed LIVE on

Champions League Group Stage • Liverpool FC-AC Milan Preview: Brilliant Mistake Champions League Group Stage • Liverpool FC-AC Milan Preview: Brilliant Mistake Reviewed by Elaine on 11:05 AM Rating: 5
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